Loch Ard and The Narrows
Parking and launch point -https://goo.gl/maps/A3m5VqhkX4uKqvBP7
Loch Ard is literally my favourite place in the world. I can't believe how much I miss getting out onto the water there. For sure it will be the first place I go once we're out of this most recent lockdown. You need to be there early on good weather days as it can get really busy! Wild swimmers, kayakers, open canoe, fisherman. They all love it. I'm almost nervous writing this post because I don't want to it get any worse for parking. There is enough room for 12 cars between the 3 lay-bys at a push. Once you have parked, head back 30m towards Aberfeldy and on the corner of the trees there is a opening which leads into a private house. Ignore that and jump over the small wall where you find the little beach to launch from.
If you head out into the water past the cross (you'll see it poking out of the water) and turn to the east of the loch you will come to an opening round the corner. Here you will find the start of The Narrows. It's the start of the River Forth which eventually joins the River Teith at Stirling and flows out into the Firth of Forth finding the famous 3 bridges. The water flows very gently here and you can comfortably paddle all the way through 3 other larger open water lochs. At the far end there are stunning houses overlooking the loch and one day in my dream world I'll buy one of the houses there and just admire the sheer beauty of the place.
This video has been completed by www.sup-chick.com and gives you a bit of a flavour of the water. Why reinvent the wheel right?! She does a good chat through although they start a different launch point which I think might be here. https://goo.gl/maps/h7GuS4KDhqQSfGrn9
Heading straight out from the beach takes you west in the loch. 500m out from the beach, on the south side will take you to three small islands. On the middle island you can still see the foundations of Duke Murdoch's Castle which dates back to the 15th Century. The water is deep off the cliff of the foundations and is a great jumping spot for those feeling brave.
If you fancy a longer paddle and head 2.5km west on the island you meet another island called Eilean Gorm. It's a bit of a midge haven when there is no wind, but there's a cool bothy to check out. Loch Ard on a beautiful wind free day is the best place in the world. Check the wind speeds before you go there, and always paddle into the wind and not with it. You can end up pretty far into the loch with a difficult paddle back if you think about the wind.
I'll leave the rest of Loch Ard to Lesley, an old colleague and pal of mine. Here she shares her description of a Glasgow Paddleboarders peer paddle she came on a few months back when we could go and life wasn't 1:1 meet ups. I think she got the bug...
The promise of ‘bats in the dark’
Located in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, encompassed within the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and surrounded by 26km of family friendly cycle ways, Loch Ard lies quietly waiting for the tranquility of the sleek paddleboard to cut through its glassy surface.
Having worked with Ally in a previous life, his paddleboarding adventures around Scotland had fast become a growing point of interest on my Instagram feed. Starting off as a quiet hobby, things were spiralling, expanding...and in what looked to be very exciting ways!
When the opportunity arose for an after-work, sunset paddle on Loch Ard, at the start of what was already proving to be a challenging school term, I jumped at the chance to grab some much needed zen. Plus, the promise of ‘bats in the dark’ sealed the deal! I do love a wee hairy bat sighting!!
We arrived an hour ahead of the paddle meet time, parking in a perfectly located bay where the B829 meets the water, opposite a small pebbled beach for launch. Ally gave us a bit of a how-to on the water. It really didn’t need much to be honest, and my jokes of “falling in” were soon a distant thought.... once you’re up and away, the inner peace just takes over. Envelopes you. You feel at one with the world and all the mad-dash-tasklists of life, for those minutes and hours on the water, disperse.
By the time the others from Ally’s Glasgow Paddleboarders Co. group began to arrive, the sun was already starting to sink down into the horizon, with Ben Lomond and the water of the loch turning a flaming shade of orange. There could not have been a more perfect way to spend the evening.
We paddled together, at distance, but with much camaraderie and shared quietude, westwards across the length of the loch towards Kinlochard, amongst its secluded tiny islands and around the tip of Eilean Gorm, admiring the natural hues of the world as the light fell. Making our way back to our launch point, and with darkness fully seeping in, The Narrows now lay in wait.
As soon as you enter The Narrows, the atmosphere changes. There is a cold and eerie mist which hangs and the forest growth reaches in on you as you paddle slowly into the heart of each pool. Ally’s board looked spectacular, lit with LED lights and all around, the glint of the head-torches reflected off the smiles of everyone in anticipation of what was to come.
Swooping, gliding, majestically, as low as your head and all around. Even in this murky darkness it was a sight and feeling to behold. And the 3000 midges which they devour per night around the National Park really do make you love them all the more!
In three small hours, on an evening after a busy day at work, we had paddled almost 10km and addressed the work-life balance to the point of complete calm, happiness and inner peace. Really just goes to show that there are always enough hours in the day to fit in time for yourself. I am all for the adrenaline rush and I love a good run or high intensity workout to help me find my happy place, but right there, on that stunning September evening, I found the little corner within my soul that enjoys the moment where the world just stops for a while and draws you in.
.......and on another note, I am ridiculously BUZZING for my Sealion board arrival in the early spring. 2021 holds so much potential, and I for one cannot wait for this community and my love of the water to become a huge part of it!